Undergraduate Research Program

URL alumni

2013-2014 Cohort

Elise Butterfield

Elise Butterfield URL picMajors: International Studies and Dance
Minor: Spanish
Mentor: Hannah Wiley, Dance

Current research project
Dance research through embodiment with the Chamber Dance Company

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I study the political, social, and historical context of the dance works the Chamber Dance Company is presenting in order to better understand their substance and significance. I work with professors, MFA candidates in the UW dance program, and visiting dance scholars and performers. Additionally, I consult video and written documents relating to the works I am studying. The results of my research are used in rehearsals and performances, as well as documented in the form of an essay.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
To put yourself out there and find a listing on the URP website or meet with an adviser or professor who has similar interests to you. There are so many wonderful people and resources on campus that can help you get your foot in the door, allowing you to begin to pursue your passions outside of the classroom.


Cara Comfort

Cara Comfort URL picMajors: Bioengineering, Neurobiology
Mentor: Dr. William Moody, Neurobiology

Current research project
A computational model of GABAergic cells to elucidate initiation of synchronous spontaneous activity in the developing mouse cortex.

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Brain development is a very complex process, in which billions of neurons manage to establish the correct circuitry. Due to its complexity, the mechanisms behind brain development are not fully comprehended. My current research project aims to help elucidate the mechanisms behind cortical development in the mouse model via a combination of physiology experiments and computational modeling in MatLab. In particular, I am investigating the initiation of synchronous spontaneous activity. These large-scale waves of electrical activity propagate throughout the cortex during the first week after birth and are crucial to cortical development.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field? 
As UW is a major research institution, it is a perfect place to get involved in research, regardless of your field. If you are interested in bioengineering or neurobiology research, I recommend getting involved as soon as possible. A first step may be to research labs in the field to figure out what specific subdiscipline you wish to investigate further through research. Also it is important to consider whether you are interested in more computational or wet lab based research.


Kenji Doering

Kenji Doering URL picMajors: Mathematics, Biophysics
Mentor: Jens Gundlach, Physics

Current research project
Nanopore DNA Sequencing: We use biological nanopore to sequence DNA strands by running current through the pores and observed different current level changes as each different nucleotide passes through the pore.

Nonlinear Optical SFG Scattering: Using the Sum Frequency Generation (SFG) of Infrared and Visible light scattering off particles in solution or reflection of surfaces, we can measure the measure the SFG wave to observe certain characteristics about the surface or particle.

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Nanopore sequencing is a way to streamline and cheapen current sequencing techniques that are used in many research fields.
SFG Scattering will help understand micromolecules at the atomic level as a means to better analyze small substances.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in undergraduate research by simply emailing a professor (Patrick Koelsch) whose work I found interesting and telling him that I would be interested in working along with him. The reason I wanted to do research was partially because I was interested in optical applications to biological systems, but also I wanted to know whether I was heading down a career path that was right for me.


Krittika D’Silva

Krittika D'Silva URL picMajors: Bioengineering, Computer Science & Engineering
Mentor: Joan Sanders, Bioengineering

Current research project
Characterizing Phases of the Gait Cycle among Individuals with Lower Limb Amputations

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I conduct research on individuals with below-the-knee amputations. Currently, our work focuses on using force sensors within prosthetic sockets to collect data as individuals sit, stand, and walk. We are working on the development of software to categorize each phase. The motivation is to use the information while monitoring natural changes in swelling of the residual limb to ultimately develop sockets that are more robust and flexible.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I began working in my lab during the fall quarter of my freshman year. It began with a simple email to a faculty member within the Department of Bioengineering whose work I found interesting. At the time, I liked the idea of doing focused and innovative research work while contributing to the field I was studying. I definitely didn’t do that immediately, but I’m working my way towards achieving that goal!


Marian Fairgrieve

Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Mentors: Dr. Adam Luckenbach, Northwest Fisheries Science Center; Dr. Graham Young, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Current research project
Exploring Possible Roles of Gonadal Kisspeptins in the Reproductive Development of Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria)

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Kisspeptins are proteins that help regulate puberty and reproductive function in many vertebrates. Currently, the study of fish kisspeptins has been restricted to the brain. I am working to determine the roles of these proteins in the gonads of immature fish as the function of gonadal kisspeptins during reproductive development is entirely unknown.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting moment in my undergrad research experience was when I got my first results of an experiment. I realized “Wow, this is a scientific first! No one on Earth knew this before now!” Discovering new things- no matter how small- is what I love about research.


Jennifer Gile

Jennifer Gile URL picMajor: Neurobiology
Mentor: Horacio de la Iglesia, Biology

Current research project
Circadian Modulation of Nueromotor Control

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My research focuses on understanding how the circadian system regulates the primary motor cortex.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Do not get discouraged if you do not get into the first lab that you apply for, just keep trying. It will pay off in the end.


Paige Haas

Paige Haas URL picMajor: Biology – Molecular, Cellular, Developmental
Mentor: Robert Steiner, Physiology & Biophysics

Current research project
Sexual Differentiation of Kiss1 Expression in the Mouse Brain

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Reproduction is regulated by the brain. I study the neurotransmitter kisspeptin, which is encoded by the Kiss1 gene and is required for puberty. Expression of the Kiss1 gene is sexually differentiated – females have higher levels of mRNA transcript than males. My research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that explain when and how this happens.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
One of the coolest things about research is the connection you make with UW faculty. My first impression of my PI was while I was interviewing for a position in his lab. He explained that research is a unique educational experience that “levels the playing field” between professors and students, because no one knows the answer to the question being investigated. I think that concept is unique to research and something really worth experiencing. At a large university like UW, it can be hard to make connections with faculty, and undergrad research is a great way to change that.


Dory Harris

Dory Harris URL picMajor: Neurobiology
Minor: Quantitative Science
Mentor: Chris Hague, Pharmacology

Current research project
Characterizing the Role of the PDZ-Binding Motif of Adrenergic Receptors in vitro

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G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) are transmembrane receptors that illicits a cellular response when activated by hormones, drugs, or neurotransmitters. These receptors are vital to maintaining homeostasis. On the end of some GPCRs is a short sequence of DNA. Despite these receptors belonging to very different cells (i.e.. heart, brain, lung cells), this sequence is exactly the same. Our laboratory is studying the purpose of this sequence for possible drug targets such as beta blockers, antidepressants, and asthma medication. These new drugs could have less side effects as current drugs on the market.

What is the most exciting and/or challenging aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging part of research is learning to fail. You will fail more than you succeed when you are working on a research project and you have to learn to be okay with this fact. However, perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of research is when you do succeed. An exciting thing to think about when you consider research is that you are doing something that no one else has ever done!


Mollie Holmberg

Mollie Holmberg URL picMajor: Biology (Ecology, Evolution, Conservation)
Minor: Global Health
Mentor: Luke Bergmann, Geography

Current research project
Modeling the Human Ecosystem

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My main project takes crop, forest and pasture lands and traces their products through global commodity chains to the human populations they eventually support. This work matters because it helps us understand how ecological/economic connections relate people to each other and the environment in different ways across the globe.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
After working for months to develop results, it is incredibly exciting to start finding stories within the maps my team has created and deciding how to narrate them. I love the creative space available here, even though it is by far the most challenging part of the research process for my project.


Jessica Hui

Jessica Hui URL picMajor: Biochemistry, Neurobiology
Mentor: Dr. Albert Quintana, Biochemistry

Current research project
Cellular mechanisms of lifespan extension after mTOR blockade in a model of Leigh Syndrome

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We’re investigating the mechanisms behind the effects of Rapamycin and mTOR inhibitors in genetically altered mice that are lacking an important unit of the electron transport chain in mitochondria, which causes energy defects and symptoms mimicking Leigh Syndrome. Understanding the extent and reasons behind the rescue caused by these drugs will help us gain a better understanding of the disease and how to better treat it.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I became involved in undergraduate research when I was a sophomore, and I did so through approaching many poster presenters during the Undergraduate Research Symposium during my freshman year, and eventually being directed to a PI who almost always had spaces open for new undergraduates.


Anh Huynh

Anh Huynh URL picMajors: Communication (Journalism), Psychology
Mentor: Dr. Anthony Greenwald, Psychology

Current research project
The Brief Implicit Association Test: not just association strengths

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The Implicit Association Test (IAT) has been used in psychological experiments to measure the strength of a person’s automatic associations between concepts. My current research uses a variation of the test called the Brief IAT (BIAT) with simplified instructions and different task structures to examine whether concepts are associated with positive or negative attitude. This research has the potential to support the development of more valid and useful IAT methods for establishing people’s unconscious attitudes toward individual objects and concepts.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Be yourself and make sure that psychology is what you’re truly interested in. Keep in mind that research takes lots of time, effort, and passion, so be willing to devote all that — and more. Also, take the initiative to explore different research opportunities and mentors to find your best fit. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask questions or challenge concepts before and during your research. Without curiosity, there would be no research.


Ranee James

Major: Physics (Biophysics)
Minor: Mathematics
Mentor: Sarah Keller, Chemistry/Physics; Jay Parrish, Biology

Current research projects
Altering a membrane’s lipid and sterol composition affects its temperature dependence
Characterization of a novel gene: a mutation causing progressive dendrite defects in Drosophila melanogaster

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I am currently working on two projects one in a chemistry lab, and another in a biology lab. In the chemistry lab, I study simplified versions of cell membranes. Discrete domains in these membranes are essential for various cellular functions, and our lab studies how and why these domains form. My project investigates which structural features contribute most to membrane immiscibility. My results will be interesting to biologists, chemists, and physicists who want to predict how different sterols affect membrane functionality. In the biology lab, we study how nerve cells form and maintain their shape using the fruit fly as a model organism. Defects in nerve cells are associated with neurological disorders such as Rett syndrome, Fragile-X syndrome, and Down syndrome, and in many cases the pathologies are progressive. I am identifying mutations that result in progressive defects in growth and stability with the hope that the genes affected by these mutations and the processes in which they regulate will provide new insight into human disease.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging aspect of my undergraduate research experience is when my experiments do not work correctly. The experiments we conduct as a part of the labs that we take for our science courses are constructed to work, but as I found out that’s not how it usually works in research. Though this is challenging aspect it is really rewarding when I finally troubleshoot, and I am more appreciative when my experiments work the first time.


Ross Jones

Ross Jones URL picMajor: Bioengineering
Mentors: Narendra Singh, Bioengineering; Henrik Sperber, Chemistry

Current research projects
Automated Quantification of Cellular Apoptosis and DNA Damage & The Effect of miRNA Secondary Structure and Drosha Expression on miRNA Biosynthesis

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I am developing analysis algorithms to automatically analyze images of cell samples with DNA radially diffused about the nucleus for levels of apoptosis, necrosis, and DNA damage. This will allow for much more rapid and less tedious analysis of such cell samples.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are processed in the nucleus by the microprocessor, comprised principally of the protein DGCR8 and the RNase Drosha. We are investigating how changes in rigidity of the structure of miRNAs between the Drosha cutting site and the hairpin loop effects processing efficiency of the miRNAs.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The people you meet in research labs are exceptional people who have a large amount of wisdom to impart onto you about anything from schoolwork to career paths to help with your project. It can also be really exciting to discuss possible projects and random ideas as well – these are always really fun and exciting, and can really lead to an exciting new direction sometimes.


Katie Jung

Katie Jung URL picMajor: Business, Accounting
Mentor: Sam Yam, Foster Department of Management

Current research project
Want to Be Ethical? Just Don’t Think About It: The Effect of Thought Suppression on Ethical Decision-Making

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I mostly have focused on the effects of mental depletion (being tired, hungry, etc.) on ethical behavior.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I became involved in research at the beginning of my junior year and loved it!! One of my roommates is an applied math major and another roommate is a psychology major and they are both heavily involved in research. They told me they saw postings for business research and I decided to give it a try just to expand my horizons and be exposed to different the opportunities that UW has to offer. I encourage everyone to at least consider the opportunity.


Rylan Kautz

Rylan Kautz URL picMajor: Material Science and Engineering: Nanoscience/Molecular Engineering
Mentor: Marco Rolandi, Materials Science and Engineering

Current research project
Proton transportation: hysteresis switch device

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The primary focus of my project is to create field effect transistor devices whose current is carried by protons instead of electrons. The hope is to correlate this with living systems. As an example, nerve cells communicate this way, where proton transfer is the signaling mechanism. Future devices could be used to simulate brain function, set the groundwork in minimizing transistor computer components, or relate the proton transportation seen in our bodies to future medical device integrations.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting aspect of my undergraduate research experience is applying classroom lessons to real life mechanics and usage. I am primarily involved in the device fabrication process and almost everything I have learned (chemistry, biology, physics, math, etc) as an undergraduate has come into play at some point while researching, so actually seeing your hard work pay off is nice to see. This can be very useful when you run into problems or failure, which happen a lot, and are then able to overcome them with your own skill set.


Averi Kitsch

Averi Kitsch URL picMajor: Bioengineering
Mentor: Dr. Colin Studholme, Pediatrics & Bioengineering

Current research project
Autosegmentation of neonatal cortical brain regions for early detection of childhood neurocognitive abilities after premature birth

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Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm, and this number continues to rise with improved neonatal care and technology. The prenatal brain is rapidly growing during this time and there is evidence that premature birth is leading to adverse neurological events. I am developing an automatic approach for labeling MRI brain scans of premature infants in order to extract measures of brain development such as volume, surface area, and folding in specific regions of the brain. Labeling or segmentation provides meaningful information about brain health and allows for the possible identification of subtle disruptions in cortical growth and brain folding.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Do not worry about starting off with a small project; once you develop your skills you’ll impress yourself and others with the work that you do.


Kevin Kwong

Kevin Kwong URL picMajor: Biochemistry, Public Health
Mentors: Dr. Keith Jerome, Microbiology; Dr. Nick Weber, FHCRC

Current research project
Alteration of Homing Endonuclease Recognition Site to Target Latent HBV Infection

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Basically, Homing Endonucleases (HE) are molecular scissors that target specific DNA sequences and create double stranded breaks. The sequence it targets can be altered by changing certain parts of the scissors that interact with DNA. My work involves engineering these changes so that the HE will target a specific sequence in the Hepatitis B (HBV) genome. In theory, the persistent cutting activity of these molecular scissors can disrupt the replication and viability of the virus. Success in my project could be a step towards developing a cure for a virus that, for some people that get infected, can not be cleared by the immune system and whom are then susceptible to a very high risk of developing liver cancer.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I first got involved with undergraduate research through iGem, a intercollegiate synthetic biology competition that occurs during the summer. During my freshman year, I found out that UW had a team and upon discovering the incredibly interesting research they had conducted in previous years, applied to join. I was accepted and it was a major learning experience. From iGem, I attained many of the lab skills I apply to my current research.


Terence Leach

Terence Leach URL picMajor: Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology and Oceanography
Minor: Marine Biology
Mentors: Dr. Gabrielle Rocap, Oceanography; Michael Carlson

Current research project
Uncovering the Evolutionary Relationships of Pseudo-nitzschia

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In my lab, we work with a group of microscopic marine phytoplankton called diatoms. Diatoms account for 1/5 of global photosynthesis and they make up the base of many marine food chains. Specifically, my project focuses on a genus of diatoms called Pseudo-nitzschia. Pseudo-nitzschia are known for their formation of harmful algal blooms in which they produce a sometimes deadly neurotoxin called domoic acid (DA). In my project, I am attempting to find a trend or connection between DA producers on an evolutionary level by sequencing DNA sections of various species of Pseudo-nitzschia and putting them on a phylogenetic tree to find their relations to one another.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Getting into research can be both challenging and rewarding. Being a student comes first, so on top of studying and any other activities that you are already juggling with hitting the books, you will have to add research to your workload. Although this will be a challenge, especially at the beginning, over time you will find how to balance your work. Time management is a great skill to have for the future, so honing it now will benefit you immensely. Do not let the amount of work scare you off, because you will be doing research at a university, most labs will know you are also a full time student so in my experience, I have found that most labs are flexible to class schedules. School and research can also work hand-in-hand because applying the concepts you learn in class to real life will help you a lot in both your research and in class.


Azeb Madebo

Azeb Madebo URL picMajor: Communication
Mentor: Ralina Joseph, Communication

Current research project
I’m currently researching how Habesha (Ethiopian/Eritrean) immigrants and their families negotiate racialized identities in America though the use of community spaces.

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The community spaces I will be exploring champion educational programing and social events, which feel familiar to newly immigrated patrons as well as those born in America but still identifying as Habesha – or with their respective home countries. Besides benefiting those with direct ties to Habesha communities, my findings will help Americans better understand and appreciate the fluidity and complexity of racial identities and categories. The findings from this research project will be indispensible for future research looking at how community spaces like the Ethiopian Community Center and Habesha “model minority” identities maintain, challenge, and potentially exacerbate racial discourses within the African American populations in America.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I became interested in pursuing undergraduate research after my sophomore year in Prof. Ralina Joseph’s internship class, which partnered with the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) in Seattle. I found the process of research, writing, and rediscovery to be tremendously rewarding – especially because I didn’t initially think it was possible for an undergraduate studying social sciences to become involved in research based knowledge production.


Kevin Magnaye

Kevin Magnaye URL picMajor: Biology (Cellular, Molecular & Developmental)
Mentor: Michael Bamshad, Pediatrics

Current research project
Comparing Ancestry Estimations from Y Chromosome, Mitochondrial DNA, and Autosomal Loci

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Three important tools are used to indicate an individual’s ancestry are the Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA. Both the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA are uni-parentally inherited, whereas autosomal DNA is bi-parentally inherited. Thus, autosomal DNA potentially contains more information regarding an individual’s genetic heritage than the Y chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. Our lab is trying to understand how well the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA accurately predict autosomal DNA ancestry. This project brings to light an important ethical issue regarding direct-to-consumer ancestry tests. Some genealogical companies may only use mitochondrial DNA or the Y chromosome to indicate ancestry because they cost less and are more time efficient than autosomal DNA. This creates a strong ethical dilemma surrounding possibly incorrect results using these uni-parentally inherited tools. Also, this research could potentially advance personalized medicine. By accurately determining one’s genetic ancestry, we could gain major insights about a specific population’s susceptibility to diseases, and the efficacy of treatments and therapies.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
No matter how many problems you run into, you should continue to persevere. The trade-offs from the fantastic discoveries you could potentially make are the blood, sweat, and tears you exhaust in the process. Never give up and always try to reach success. Because no matter how long or difficult the process is, you always gain personal fulfillment.


Jesus Martinez-Gomez

Jesus Martinez-Gomez URL picMajor: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Mentors: Veronica Di Stilio & Kelsey Galimba, Biology

Current research project
Characterization of a Floral B-class Gene Homeotic Mutant in a Ranunclid

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I work on the genes which produce the organs of a flower. These genes are known to work together in different combinations; each combination produces a different organ of a flower. Since these genes are very important for the development of the different organs, they are highly conserved throughout flowering plants. For example, most of the genes involved in petal formation in tulips are the same ones involved in petal formation in tomatoes. Even though tulips and tomato are very distantly related, these genes work in a very similar fashion in both species. That being said, they don’t function in exactly the same way, so it is interesting to study in what ways they interact differently and how this leads to all the different flower diversity that exists.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
For those of you who are considering a career in research/medicine, it is a fantastic opportunity to start now and establish a foundation by learning basic methodology and about current topics in research today.


Alex Montano

Alex Montano URL picMajor: Public Health
Mentor: Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, Medicine/Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Current research project
Phenotypic Characterization of Patient-Derived HIV-2 Protease: Implications for Drug Resistance Testing and Salvage Therapy

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It is estimated that there are about 30-35 million cases of HIV worldwide and of those, only about 1-2 million of those are HIV-2. HIV-2 is endemic in West Africa and the lab I work in has a cohort of patients that we work with in Senegal, Africa. Compared to HIV-1, HIV-2 is categorized by a lower transmission rate between people, a slower decline to AIDs, and a lower risk of death. The project I have been working on involves looking at patients who are failing a class of drugs called protease inhibitors. Using patient blood samples from Senegal, I have been looking at the DNA sequences of the protease encoding region for these patients and looking for mutations that may confer drug resistance. Drug resistance is essentially when a drug loses its effectiveness for the patient taking it and therefore the patient begins to show clinical signs of HIV again. We have classified the mutations that we believe are causing this drug resistance and now we are working on a project to understand how a combination of these mutations together are affecting the effectiveness of other protease inhibitor drugs.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Undergraduate research has taken me so much further than I ever could have imagined and has absolutely shaped my undergraduate career. Participating in HIV-2 research has allowed me to gain a more informed understanding of HIV and to look at various aspects of treatment, policy, and patient care in a global setting through our cohort work in Senegal, Africa. I have had the opportunity to produce abstracts and posters, present at professional conferences, and to be published as a coauthor on a paper, which have taught me skills in public speaking and professionalism. In addition, I have been able to work closely with faculty and build strong academic connections outside of the classroom. I am challenged to look at our data differently, to be more analytical, and think about problems and potential solutions on my own. Research is never entirely easy but the outcomes and skills gained are always rewarding and worth the effort.


Rosie Morrow-Okon

Rosie Morrow-Okon URL picMajor: International Studies, Human Rights Track
Minor: Global Health
Mentors: Denis Basic & Maria-Elena Garcia, Jackson School of International Studies
Matt Sparke, International Studies/Geography; Celia Lowe, Anthropology; and Luke Bergmann, Geography

Current research project
Enhancing Human Rights in Israeli-Palestinian Relations through an International Studies Framework

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Evaluation of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict by analysis through a historical framework, centered on the events and ideologies of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa in the early 1990′s, provides a template for enhancing human rights efforts in the present-day Middle Eastern crisis. Comparison of this conflict against a successful internal political shift to promote peace presents the foundation for research in which the synergistic combination of knowledge gained through human rights coursework applies to a current humanitarian dilemma.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Ask questions, and follow up on questions you have in class! When you find a puzzle or a historical event that doesn’t make sense or captures your curiosity, go to office hours, explore library books on the topic, write practice thesis statements, and above all don’t let your pursuit of answers or explanations stop inside the classroom.


Anisa Noorassa

Anisa Noorassa URL picMajor: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Minor: History
Mentor: Jennifer Nemhauser, Biology

Current research project
Auxin: A Study in Yeast

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I am studying the interactions between receptor and repressor proteins in the Arabidopsis auxin signal transduction pathway. I am using a yeast-two hybrid assay to determine the binding strength between different repressor-receptor pairs. There are many different auxin repressor and receptor proteins in Arabidopsis and this diversity seems to allow for a variety of auxin mediated responses. This information will help us understand and explain the diversity in auxin repressors and receptors.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Research has initiated me into the world of science and helped me to being my career as a biologist. My first few weeks in the lab were a dizzying flurry of techniques and experiments, few of which I could fully grasp. I was very dependent on my mentor and fellow lab members to guide my actions and piece together how each individual procedure related to our project as a whole. It came as a shock, weeks later, when I realized I could explain my experiments to the new lab technician, and plan my own days’ worth of research without extensive instructions. Research pulls together the strands of my academic education and my career aspirations and weaves them into tangible accomplishments and experiences I will carry forward with me as I finish my undergraduate degree, apply graduate school, and hopefully continue my education.


Chinonso Opara

Chinonso Opara URL picMajor: Biochemistry
Mentor: William Atkins, Medicinal Chemistry

Current research project
Quantification of quantum dots in solution using surface plasmon resonance and analytical ultracentrifugation

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Quantum dots are nanoparticles made of semiconductor metals modified with surface ligands. Because quantum dots are currently being developed for biomedical applications, such as drug delivery and cellular imaging, it is vital to accurately and readily determine their concentration in solution. My project comes up with a way to do just that.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most rewarding aspect of my undergraduate experience is the freedom to be creative and propose answers to questions nobody has asked before.


Harlan Pietz

Harlan Pietz URL picMajor: Biochemistry, Microbiology
Mentor: Keith Jerome, FHCRC

Current research project
Delivering DNA Cutting Enzymes for Targeted Provirus Mutagenesis in HIV Therapy

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Thirty-four million people worldwide currently live with HIV-1. Despite the availability of highly-active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) which may prolong the lifespan of HIV patients, HAART does not target the latent viral reservoir in infected cells, enabling viral rebound in the absence of treatment. Introducing genetically-engineered DNA cutting enzymes (endonucleases) into HIV-infected cells may disrupt the integrated provirus. The site-specific DNA cutting activity of these endonucleases operating in conjunction with cellular error-prone DNA repair mechanisms may result in sustained damage to the integrated viral genome and prevent the virus from replicating. My research aims to develop a system using adeno-associated viruses (AAV) as vectors for delivering DNA cutting enzymes to HIV infected cells.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Working with and learning from an extremely talented group of professionals, from grad students to staff scientists — people who I hope to emulate later in my career. Also, the process of making genetically-engineered viruses is very tedious but extremely rewarding when it works!


Margaux Pinney

Margaux Pinney URL picMajors: Chemistry, Biochemistry
Minor: Mathematics
Mentors: Trisha Davis, Biochemistry; Jim Mayer, Chemistry

Current research project
Reversibility of Compound I Formation with Hydrogen Peroxide by Horseradish Peroxidase

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The goal of this project is to probe the potential reversibility of Compound I formation, a step traditionally thought to be irreversible. If this reaction proves to be reversible, this knowledge could then be used to describe cytochrome P450s. This research would be immensely important to pharmaceutical and toxicological research, as well as synthetic processes.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging aspect of research is getting used to being wrong or having your experiments fail, which is very common. Research in the lab is extremely different from lab courses, where everything is planned to work (if done correctly) and has been done before. Research requires a certain amount of grit to get through these times and focus on positive and exciting results. Getting used this aspect of research can be difficult, but is ultimately very rewarding.


Sam Pizelo

Sam Pizelo URL picMajor: English Literature
Mentor: Eva Cherniavsky, English

Current research project
Corporeal Hauntings: Representations of HIV in South African Literature

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I’m looking into South African literature during the AIDS epidemic to understand how HIV is represented, or even repressed, and how Gothic themes might help us understand the human body when it is ‘haunted’ by outside species.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I entered UW as a transfer student my Junior year, and wanted to distinguish myself. I had questions without answers, and I wanted a challenge.


Anthony Recidoro

Anthony Recidoro URL picMajor: Biochemistry
Minors: Chemistry, Naval Science
Mentor: Ronald Y. Kwon, Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine

Current research project
Neuronal Regulation of Regenerative Bone Growth in the Zebrafish Fin

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It has long been known that following amputation, certain vertebrates such as urodele amphibians and teleost fish possess a remarkable capacity to regenerate lost appendages. Danio rerio, or zebrafish, are one such organism, and have recently emerged as a powerful model for understanding the mechanisms mediating regenerative processes. Following fin amputation, zebrafish restore lost bones, nerves, blood vessels, and skin. In salamanders, limb regeneration has long been known to be nerve-dependent, though this process is believed to be independent of nerve conductance via the central nervous system. In contrast, in mammals, a growing body of evidence suggests that efferent nerve signals from the central nervous system regulates bone cell activity. My research project focuses on the role of nerves and neurotransmission in regulating regeneration and bone cell activity in the zebrafish tail fin.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Understand that you bring something new to the table. While you may have no experience in the research you get involved with, do not be afraid to ask questions and to give suggestions. Your perspective could be the last little spark needed to help your lab in making a novel discovery.


Rachel Rosenzweig

Rachel Rosenzweig URL picMajor: Materials Science and Engineering
Minor: Nanoscience and Molecular Engineering
Mentors: Marco Rolandi & Pegah Hassanzadeh, Materials Science and Engineering

Current research project
Investigating the microstructures and mechanical properties of chitin towards biomedical applications

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Our group is looking at biomaterials, specifically chitin, and how they can be incorporated into Materials Science and Engineering research. Since biologically materials are compatible with the human body and exhibit superior mechanical properties than most materials, they are especially vital in applications such as composites and biomedical devices.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in the beginning of my sophomore year by contacting a Professor I was interested in doing research with after seeing him present at my Intro MSE seminar class. After speaking with him about my research interests, he referred me to my current Research Mentor whose research he thought matched with my interest! I got involved in research to get a feel of what was being done in my field outside of my classes and to get hands on research experience.


Ellie Stillwell

Ellie Stillwell URL picMajor: Psychology
Minor: Philosophy
Mentor: Sapna Cheryan, Psychology

Current research project
How stereotypical work environments affect hiring decisions

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Our research studies stereotypes and how they can affect feelings of belonging to a group. One main focus of our lab is to investigate how stereotypes of computer science can discourage women from entering the field.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
I’ve had a lot of unique opportunities to present my lab’s research. One of my favorite occasions was when the lab presented at the PAWS-On Science Husky Weekend at the Pacific Science Center. It’s an annual event where families from the Seattle area come and walk around the Science Center to explore all the research being done at the UW. Our lab attended and I had the chance to talk about some of our research on stereotypical environments with kids and families of all ages. That was really rewarding and a lot of fun!


Mathew Summers

Mathew Summers URL picMajors: Neurobiology, Biochemistry
Mentor: Peter Ward, Biology

Current research project
Effects of Hydrogen Sulfide on Plant Growth

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Our work has the potential to develop a cheap and effective method of increasing commercial crop yields that would reduce the need for energy intensive, eutrophication-prone fertilizer production.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
I would advise “researching your research” by identifying local researchers in your area of interest, and then reading (or attempting to read) published scientific articles from that lab or professor. If you decide to contact a professor, mention these articles. Be honest and upfront about which parts you found interesting, and which you didn’t quite understand.


Talia Suner

Talia Suner URL picMajors: Biochemistry, Neurobiology
Minors: Mathematics, Chemistry
Mentor: Charles Chavkin, Pharmacology

Current research project
Investigation of the k-Opioid Receptor Cascade

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After treating cells with various agonists or antagonists of the k-opioid receptor, we isolate the cytoplasm of the cells and use Western blots to detect and quantify the presence of various proteins. In this way, we can characterize the protein cascade activated by the k-opioid receptor by isolating the cytoplasm at different time points and by using different agonists/antagonists.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Get involved early. This will give you the chance to change your mind if you realize that the research you are doing isn’t tailored to your interests. If it turns out that you love the first lab you join, then you have the opportunity to work there for as long as possible.


Nancy Thomas

Nancy Thomas URL picMajors: Physics, Astronomy
Mentor: Joshua Bandfield, Earth & Space Sciences

Current research projects
(1) Aqueous Compositions and Surface Morphologies on Mars
(2) Kepler Transiting Exoplanets

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(1) Researching and mapping water-related minerals on Mars to determine where water could have existed in its past.
(2) Analyzing Kepler Spacecraft data to discover new exoplanets, planets orbiting other stars.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I first became involved with research through the Washington NASA Space Grant Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) during the summer before my freshman year. I wanted to find a way to transition into college life while exploring major options – research seemed like the perfect way!


Alex Vaschillo

Alex Vaschillo URL picMajor: Mathematics, Chemistry
Mentor: David Masiello, Chemistry


Wenbi Wu

Wenbi Wu URL picMajors: Biochemistry, Chemistry
Mentors: David Ginger & Adam Colbert, Chemistry

Current research project
The Impact of Quantum Dot Surface Ligands on the Operation of Hybrid Polymer/Quantum Dot Solar Cells

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Solar technology is a potential source to help meet the growing demand for clean, renewable energy. We are currently trying to improve the efficiency of hybrid polymer/quantum dot solar cells by studying how the different ligands on the quantum dots influence the system.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Science research could sometimes be very frustrating and unexpected things happen all the time; however, do not give up and keep trying. When you get to the end, outcomes can be very exciting and every failure will be worthy.

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 2012-2013 Cohort

Moe Aoki

Major: Law, Societies, & Justice, Sociology
Mentor: Jose Antonio Lucero, Jackson School of International Studies

UW research project
Looking at the Visceral: The Transmission of Affect in the Portrayal of Undocumented Immigrants

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There have been claims that recent immigration laws, such as HB 56 and SB 1070, will improve the economy, reduce unemployment, and in a general sense, protect America. I am interested in where this staunch support of being this selective gatekeeping nation comes from when the United States often prides itself as being an immigrant nation. I decided to analyze Border Wars and Dreamers Adrift under the framework of affect theory to explore how current immigration discourse came to be. Affect theory provides an alternative explanation for the rising anti-immigrant sentiment besides the usual, “We do it to protect America,” “because the law says so,” et cetera.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
You have to do so much more than in your regular classes. You do not receive step-by-step instructions from your professors on how to do the research and write the paper. This will sound strange, but I did so much THINKING. It requires hours upon hours of reading, writing, getting confused, and thinking and writing all over again. It is something you have to build endurance for, and that process is very challenging and frustrating.


Michael Bocek

Major: Biochemistry
Mentor: Suzie H. Pun, Bioengineering


Alex Catchings

Major: English
Mentor: Sonnet Retman, American Ethnic Studies

UW research project
Postmodern Parody in Neo-Slave Narratives and History Rerendering

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My research analyzes the neo-slave narrative, which is a slave narrative penned after the 1960′s. I read specific neo-slave texts that utilize humor and parody, and compare them with original slave narratives from the 18th and 19th centuries. I then use my findings to contrast the texts with history books to see how parody and pastiche can serve to create political mobility and agency in African American texts. The end results should glean perspectives on the pros and cons of academic history books and the black past.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Humanities research can be insular at times–particularly when you’re reading a large number of books and journal articles. The beauty of humanities research, though, is its malleability. You can and should craft your projects based around your interests, because sincere interest keeps you motivated to read and flesh out ideas. It also makes for keener papers–readers truly get out of your research what you put in.


Rebecca de Frates

Major: Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology
Mentor: Dong-Hui Chen, Medical Genetics

UW research project
Genome-wide Detection of Novel Mutations in Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia

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My research focuses on finding new mutations in families affected by hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP). HSP is a neurological muscular disorder that increases muscle tone causing stiffness, weakness, and movement issues, mainly in the leg muscles, that is passed down in families. We are using exome sequencing to find new genetic mutations that cause this disease that have not previously been identified. Our findings will potentially contribute to better clinical diagnosis of HSP and may lead to new drug targets.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Go for it! Undergraduate research is something that everyone should have the opportunity to experience. It gives you a chance to apply what you are learning and what you are passionate about.


Eric Do

Major: Bioengineering
Mentor: Kim Woodrow, Bioengineering

UW research project
Developing nanoparticle-based antiretroviral topical microbicides for HIV prevention

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Women who are not able to negotiate condom use with their male partners have no means of protection against infection against HIV. Microbicides are topical products that offer women a controlled prevention method. Since junior year, I have been working to develop nanoparticles that encapsulate antiretroviral (ARV) drugs with different mechanisms of action. Following this, I hope to gain a better understanding of unique drug-drug interactions by delivering these single ARV nanoparticles in combination.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
START EARLY! One of the things I wish I had done was getting involved early. Visiting the URP drop-in hours would be a great place to start to gain a better sense of direction and see what kinds of opportunities are available. Setting up meetings with faculty members who have taught your classes and whose work interest you would work as well. By starting early, you have the opportunity to gain as much experience as possible and that way you can explore various opportunities to gain a better understanding of which fields pique your interest the most.


Kelsey Haas

Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Minor: French
Mentor: Judit Villen, Department of Genome Sciences

UW research project
Characterizing Breast Cancer Cell Line Phosphoproteomes via Mass Spectrometry

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Phosphorylated proteins are commonly involved in signaling pathways, and any abnormality in the sequential protein phosphorylation down these pathways can result in abnormal cell growth and development characteristic of cancer. We’re trying to identify the proteins that are phosphorylated in different subtypes of breast cancer to identify the signaling pathways that have gone awry. My goals are to identify common phosphorylated proteins to find a molecular signature for breast cancer, and to identify the phosphoproteins unique to each breast cancer subtype to find subtype-specific markers. From this information, future studies can be conducted to design a universal breast cancer protein inhibitor drug or subtype-specific protein inhibitors as forms of anti-cancer therapies.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
In terms of biological research, starting is probably going to be the hardest part. There are so many different departments and labs at UW conducting research that it’s difficult to know who to talk to or where/how to start looking for positions. It can be overwhelming – but it’s more manageable if you take advantage of the resources around you! The Undergraduate Research Program and departmental advising are going to be your best options to help you figure out where to start.


Antonious Hazim

Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Mentor: David MacPherson, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center

UW research project
Mouse Model studies on Small Cell Lung Carcinoma

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My research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center involves working with Small Cell Carcinoma a highly malignant cancer most commonly associated with the lung. My work uses a mouse model to recapitulate the disease.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting aspect of my research experience has been how life changing it has been for me. It’s amazing to know that the work I am currently doing is helping to make a difference on the fight against cancer. I have realized how vital research is and because of this, I have decided to pursue an MD/PhD.


Vicky Herrera

Major: Biochemistry
Minor: Chemistry
Mentor: Horacio de la Iglesia, Biology

UW research project
Disruption of Sleep Impacts Hippocampal Memory Performance

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We are seeing the effects that disputing sleep has on long-term memory performance.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
An exciting aspect of research is coming to lab everyday not ever being sure what might happen.


Angela Hess

Major: Chemistry
Mentor: David Ginger, Chemistry

UW research project
Biosensing Applications of Silver Nanoprisms

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I am testing the viability of using silver nanoprisms as a component in a sensor that could test for the presence of DNA sequences or certain proteins.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Research, particularly in a field such as chemistry, can be incredibly frustrating. Failure is incredibly common, and success (particularly reproducible success) requires a lot of effort. Fortunately, such failure can act as motivation for developing or attempting new approaches.


Danee Hidano

Major: Bioengineering
Mentor: Daniel Ratner, Bioengineering

UW research project
Using mannose-glycopolymers to specifically deliver chemotherapy drug Doxorubicin to cancer tumors

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My research focuses on synthesizing carbohydrate-polymers that function as drug delivery vehicles capable of binding to cell receptors on specific cells. Drug targeting can be very advantageous because it reduces both the required dosage and toxic side effects associated with the drug. I am conjugating the chemotherapy drug Doxorubicin to these carbohydrate-polymers and exploring its use as a potential cancer treatment.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Try getting involved in lab as soon as you can, but don’t just rush into any lab that accepts you. Do your research and apply for lab positions that really interest you. Also, I highly recommend going to the Undergraduate Research Program’s drop-in hours to get advice touching up your resume, speaking with professors, and finding great opportunities!


Marcus Johnson

Major: Global Studies
Minor: Human Rights
Mentor: Ben Gardner, Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

UW research project
The Multi Dimensions of Blackness: Cultural Hegemony in the US and Abroad

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I am interested in how the concept of race and identity plays a role in how we perceive difference. Moreover, I would like to investigate how colonial powers such as the United States have shaped ideas of race and identity while maintaining colonial rule abroad.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
This past summer (2012) I was a participant in the Summer Institute in the Art & Humanities. This opportunity allowed me to explore questions concerning race and representation. Why were my peers studying abroad and returning with the same preconceived notions of developing countries? Why were my college classmates representing people and places in the Global South as underdeveloped, religious radicals, uneducated, disease stricken, and confrontational? These questions have driven my interest in globalization, power, borders, and how a variety of people and institutions located in “the West” represent the Global South.


Tinny Liang

Major: Bioengineering
Minor: Global Health, Chemistry
Mentor: Elain Fu, Bioengineering

UW research project
Development of a Prototype Paper-based Malarial Diagnostic Device

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There is an inequality in the access to health care; diagnostic capabilities in laboratory settings cannot be used as is in low-resource settings, where millions of people die from curable infectious diseases. Current laboratory based diagnostic tests are too expensive and too complex for use in low-resource settings. The current method for diagnosis of infectious diseases suffer from reliability issues. Access to accurate diagnostics will save millions of lives and overall lead to better patient outcomes. My research focuses on designing diagnostic tests with the appropriate reliability and usability for low-resource settings using a new paper-based format.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in undergraduate research my freshmen year through searching through the list of openings on the URP website. I e-mailed professors whose research topics were intriguing but not necessary in my field, and ended up joining Professor Elain Fu’s lab in the Bioengineering Department. I got involved with the simple expectation of gaining experience applying classroom concepts to a real life problem, and have gone through a path of self-discovery as a result. Research has changed my perspective and outlook on how I, as an individual, can contribute to improving health and access to health.


Bryony Lynch

Major: Biology
Mentor: Maitreya Dunham, Genome Sciences

UW research project
Characterization of Replicate Evolutions of S. cerevisiae Under Constant Nutrient-Limitations

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Basically, we are trying to figure out how evolution works at the molecular level. We change the environment by limiting a nutrient and observe how the yeast evolve to cope with the change. In order to tell if the yeast have evolved to be better at using the nutrient in question, we compete them with an ancestor strain that has not evolved. The results of the competition tell us the answer. Additionally, we look for changes in the yeast’s genome by sequencing it and then match the changes to the change in fitness that we see.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I started as an undergraduate researcher in the middle of my Junior year. I knew I wanted to get involved because I wanted to use the experience to find out if research was going to be my career choice. During registration, I signed up for the URP’s class ‘Research Exposed’ just so I could get my foot in the door and see what kind of research was out there. A professor, who is now my PI, gave a talk about her research and I was greatly intrigued. I knew at that moment this research was the type of research that I wanted to do. I wrote a letter to that Professor and I was working in the lab the very next week. I now know that doing research is my calling and I am very thankful to the URP and my PI for helping me find it!


Amanda Montoya

Major: Psychology
Minor: Mathematics
Mentor: Sapna Cheryan, Psychology

UW research project
Choosing a science class: How increasing perceptions of group work in computer science affects women’s interest.

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We are testing, through experiments, if increasing group work in computer science classes might increase women’s interest in taking the classes.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most rewarding part of research is knowing that you are working to solve a problem in the world. For me, that is the underepresentation of women in computer science. After my presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium, I was contacted by many computer science teachers and departments interested in the implications of my research. As I am now in the process of submitting to a major journal, I continue to feel like I am helping others by making my research known, and someone else might use this knowledge to further assist in reducing underepresentation of women in computer science.


Marvin Nayan

Majors: Neurobiology, Biochemistry
Mentor: Jay Parrish, Biology

UW research project
Neuron Morphogenesis

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The structure of neurons is important to its function. I used the fruit fly as the model organism to study which genes regulate the structure of these neurons. Results from my research can lead to increased understanding of many mental disorders.

Do you have an interesting story to share about your research experience?
One interesting fact is that most P.I.’s, contrary to popular opinion, are very approachable and always willing to help.


Cameron Nemeth

Majors: Bioengineering
Mentor: Deok-Ho Kim, Bioengineering

UW research project
Enhancement of Chondrogenesis of Dental Pulp Stem Cells on Hyaluronan Hydrogels with Nanostructures

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Stem cells are known to differentiate into different lineages depending on external environmental cues. My work focuses on analyzing the effect of combining chemical cues derived from hyaluronic acid, a common glycosaminoglycan, and mechanical cues generated from a topographical nanopattern on dental pulp stem cell differentiation into cartilage cells.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Get involved early. Professors are always looking for eager and young researchers for their research. By starting early, you will be able to learn the skills you need to become an independent researcher and eventually get your own research project.


Derek Nhan

Majors: Neurobiology, Biochemistry
Mentor: Kyra J. Becker, Neurology

UW research project
Modulating the Immune Response Due to Post-Stroke Infection in an Animal Model

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Stroke is the leading cause of long-term adult disability. Infections such as pneumonia following stroke have been shown to induce worse outcome in patients. My project focuses on understanding the consequences of this infection on the systemic immune response near the site of activity in the brain and spleen of a rat model. By monitoring this response, we can better develop targeted approaches to dealing with cerebral injury.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
I would advise any student to meet with the professor of a course that they have found thought-provoking and intriguing, and discuss opportunities to conduct research in that discipline. Being involved in research could open doors to finding a potential area of study or career.


Helen Olsen

Majors: Geography & Public Health
Minor: African Studies
Mentor: Victoria Lawson, Geography

UW research project
Partnering for Health: Emerging Forms of Public Health Governance in Washington State

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In this research, I use archival and ethnographic methods to examine the ways in which austerity measures enacted in the wake of the Great Recession have contributed to the emergence of new public-private partnerships in the field public health service provision. I argue that the emergence of public-private partnerships constitute a new form of health governance.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
For me, my work as an undergraduate research assistant has allowed me to grow as a scholar in ways I couldn’t have even imagined when I started. The work I have engaged in with my mentors has shifted the ways in which I think about poverty, health and the politics of access in the city of Seattle. The experience of working on a large faculty led research project inspired me to craft an independent senior research thesis project of my own, which I am currently working on.


Jose Pineda

Major: Neurobiology, Mathematics
Mentor: Wenying Shou, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center


Amina Ramadan

Major: Public Health, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
Minor: Global Health
Mentor: Victor Pineda & Mindy Farris, Pathology

UW research project
Genetic Determinants of Longevity in C. elegans

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C. elegans are a type of microscopic nematode worm. It’s really easy to knock down particular genes in their genome by feeding them double-stranded RNA. When we do this, we can see how knocking down certain genes can either lengthen or shorten the lifespan of the worm. If we happen to know what role that gene plays, or what the protein it codes for might be doing, we can also make an educated guess as to how this lifespan extension happened, or what physiological “pathway” is being worked on by the gene.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
If they are just beginning the process of looking for a research opportunity, I would say they should definitely work all their resources and keep at it. For every ten emails you send out, you might hear back from one or two labs, or you might hear back from all ten, but the important thing is to be confident that you will eventually find a great opportunity! If a student is just beginning to become involved with research itself, I would say to set aside enough time to be in your lab, and to be attentive and eager while you are there. There’s so much more than bench skills that you will learn from being an undergraduate researcher, like presentation skills, networking skills, and how to develop your patience and perseverance.


Jeremy Ridge

Major: Mechanical and Electrical Engineering
Mentor: Eric Seibel, Mechanical Engineering

UW research project
Early Caries Detection Utilizing Ultrathin Scanning Fiber Endoscope (SFE)

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Dental caries (the precursor to cavities) are one of the most prevalent diseases in the developing world, particularly in children. The aim of the project is to develop an inexpensive device to detect caries at a stage in which preventative therapies can be administered to reverse their effects before they become cavities. Caries can be reversed through the use of increased dental hygiene (i.e. taking better care of your teeth) and also through administering dental gels and other intraoral medicine. Once cavities have developed, the only thing that can be done is to remove and fill them (i.e. drill-and-fill).

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
There are many research opportunities in engineering here at the UW, and while research is not for everyone it can greatly enhance your knowledge and skill base beyond the things that you learn in the class room, and give you opportunities to participate in significant real-world work before you graduate. It can also be a lot of fun! So my advice is to look at what research is available and get in contact with those labs that do research in something that YOU find interesting or are passionate about. It can’t hurt to give it a try.


Guillermo Romano

Major: Public Health, Biochemistry
Minor: Chemistry
Mentor: Dustin Maly, Chemistry

UW research project
“A Molecular Fishing Rod” – Synthesis of a tri-functional probe to profile kinase conformations in cell lines.

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Cells need to have a way of responding to external stimuli and altering their phenotype in order to survive. Organisms, like humans, do this by processing the information through a central nervous system. Cells, however, lack such a system, and instead, must rely on the chemical composition of their exterior to modify their internal chemistry.

Small signaling molecules on the exterior of a cell (such as a hormone) may activate or inhibit cellular signaling pathways that relay external signals to internal machinery. This machinery usually activates a particular function (metabolism, cellular replication, DNA expression, etc). These pathways are largely regulated by a class of proteins known as “kinases,” which are responsible for phosphorylating enzymes (turning them on or off).

Understanding what shape (conformation) kinases adopt in a particular cell line could lead to a better understanding of the kinds of signals involved in disease. Specifically, this knowledge could be used to identify selective drug targets for cancer treatments or identifying off targets for a new treatment, thereby minimizing side effects.

My project is to create a novel tool that is functionally akin to a fishing rod. Instead of fish, I’m looking for kinases.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Things never work the way you predict. Know the science and be excited about the end goal, but love the process.


Maya Sangesland

Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Mentor: Peter Rabinovitch, Pathology

UW research project
Analysis of Redox Status in Cardiac Aging and Cardiac Hypertrophy

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Age is a significant and often overlooked aspect of cardiovascular disease. Age induced cardiac stress has been suggested to induce a shift in electron carrying molecules (redox molecules) which have been implicated in many of the functional losses associated with cardiovascular aging and disease. The purpose of my research is to examine how these molecules change as we age, and if these changes are somehow paralleled to the age-related decline in cardiovascular function. Ultimately, from this research we hope to better understand the processes involved in cardiac aging as well as to identify possible targets for attenuating cardiovascular disease.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Students interested in research should talk to their professors about what they do in their labs. A majority of professors really enjoy when students ask questions and are genuinely interested in what they do. And oftentimes if you are able to develop relationships with your professors in the classroom, they may offer you a position as an undergraduate researcher in their labs.


Heather Schneider

Majors: Biology (BS) and Psychology (BA)
Mentor: Matt Kaeberlein, Pathology

UW research project
Understanding Dietary Restriction as a Mechanistic Pathway of Longevity

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We are looking for genes that have potential to extend lifespan under conditions with low food.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Do not be afraid to ask questions! Every researcher loves to talk to anyone who will listen about their research or the components involved.


Meera Shenoy

Major: Microbiology
Mentor: Chetan Seshadri, Medicine – Allergy and Infectious Disease


Chen Shi

Majors: Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering
Mentor: Gregory Terman, Anesthesiology

UW research project
Studies Comparing Tolerance to Morphine-induced Respiratory Depression with Tolerance to Morphine-induced Analgesia

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Morphine is widely known to be effective for reducing pain levels. However, increasing doses of opiates, in an effort to counterbalance the drug tolerance, may induce respiratory depression and even cause deaths. We hypothesize that the morphine-induced drug tolerance has a higher magnitude than tolerance to morphine-induced respiratory depression, so that the patients are more likely to develop respiratory depression as the opiate doses increase. This project, which aims to investigate the differences of the two tolerance phenomena in terms of both magnitudes and underlying mechanisms, is of great importance to patients who requires long-term pain management.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting and rewarding aspect of my research experience is the publications, through which the research can be known by peers all over the world. In the past summer I participated in a summer research program at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute. I was asked to develop an augmented reality (AR) display system that attaches to a surgical microscope for image-guided microsurgery. The project went well and finally I got a first-author conference paper, which is indeed a good reward for my research work.


Sreetha Sidharthan

Majors: Biochemistry
Mentor: Michael Lagunoff, Microbiology

UW research project
Delineating Viral Mechanism of KSHV-induced Angiogenesis

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The Lagunoff lab studies KSHV, an oncogenic herpesvirus that is known to cause cancer in immunosuppressed patients. One of the hallmarks of KSHV-induced tumors is called angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vasculature. The goal of my project is to understand how KSHV alters the host cells to induce angiogenic characteristics.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
I find presenting my work to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the undergraduate research experience. I love the challenge of explaining my ideas and conclusions to a diverse audience. Presenting my work has allowed me both to have a stronger understanding of my own project and to share what I do outside of the laboratory environment.


Gail Stanton

Major: Biochemistry
Minor: Applied Mathematics
Mentor: Susan Brockerhoff, Biochemistry

UW research project
Mapping the ZVM10 mutation in the zebrafish genome

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The ZVM10 mutation is a recessive mutation that causes early degeneration of the photoreceptors and results in blind zebrafish. The ultimate goal of this project has been to identify the gene that has mutated in order to enable further study of its role in vision.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
1. Approach research opportunities with an open mind. Be ready to be flexible and give more than you might have initially intended to. Every “sacrifice” you make will be completely worth it.
2. Don’t plan on being involved in research in the short-term. The longer you are involved the more rewarding it will be.


Alex Taipale

Majors: Biochemistry (B.S.)
Minors: Applied Math, Bioethics, and Humanities
Mentor: James Mullins, Microbiology

UW research project
Mechanisms of Base J Insertion in Leishmania

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Leishmania is a parasite common in the tropics that causes wide spread disease and death. Current drugs targeting Leishmania are inadequate and there is no vaccine. I study mechanisms of modification of Leishmania DNA. I do this by obtaining more information about where the Leishmania genome is modified by studying small segments of Leishmania DNA. Hopefully this will lead to future drug targets.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
A friend of mine got involved with research when I was a Freshman. It sounded like she was enjoying it, so I looked into it! I perused the URP website and emailed professors whose research appeared interesting. I was lucky enough to reach out to a Material Science and Engineering lab that was enthusiastic about mentoring undergraduates, and I started volunteering there spring quarter of my Freshman year.


Keiko Weir

Major: Neurobiology, Economics
Mentor: William Moody, Zoology

UW research projects
The Use of a Microfluidic Multichannel Array to Study Activity in Slices of Mouse Cortex

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
It is not well understood how all of the connections among neurons required for the brain to process information are established during development. It has recently become apparent that waves of spontaneous electrical activity spread across large groups of neurons during early brain development and that these waves of activity are crucial for correct development of brain circuitry. In my work in the Moody Lab I study how waves of spontaneous electrical activity propagate across the mouse cerebral cortex by using calcium imaging and recording extracellular electrical activity. My goal is to use a novel device (a microfluidic array) to understand the frequency and pattern of these waves.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most rewarding part of my undergraduate research experience was having my research published in a scientific journal and being able to present my work at a national conference (Neuroscience) this year.


Janson White

Major: Biology (Molecular, Cellular & Developmental)
Mentor: Tony Krumm, Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine

UW research projects
Genetics (epigenetics)

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
I am looking at what Human DNA looks like inside your cells. By understanding what your DNA looks like we are able to analyze how genes are able to to be mutated. In the case of the Myc gene, we are looking for a loop in the DNA that can be associated with cancer.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Undergrad research has many awesome perks, but to me the best is being able to network with sooo many interesting people. Whether it’s working with a graduate student or a professor, everyone is motivated and inspirational.


Yue Xiang

Major: Biochemistry, Cellular Biology
Mentor: Merrill Hille, Biology


Xiaohan (Thomas) Yan

Major: Economics, Statistics, Applied and Computational Math Sciences
Minor: Mathematics
Mentor: Hendrik Wolff, Economics

UW research project
Gender Difference in Risk Aversion: Evidence from the Effects of SARS on Thailand Tourism.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which broke out from February 2003 to January 2004 in several Asian countries, had negative impact on Thailand tourism during that period. Using time series data, I can measure the different risk averseness between genders, which is interesting to know to sociologists and economists.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most rewarding aspect of my undergraduate research experience is that it gives me an opportunity to explore my interest in time series analysis and helps me to decide my future degree/career goal based on that interest.


Alan Yu

Major: Bioengineering
Minor: Applied Mathematics
Mentor: Dr. Joan Sanders, Bioengineering

UW research project
Prosthetic Liner Prescription Assistant (PLPA)

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
For amputee patients, prosthetic liners are used to improve comfort and safety by adding a cushioning layer between the prosthetic socket and the residual limb. Most prosthetists prescribe a liner from a small pool of liners that is used regularly, and the problem is that they limit selection since differences among liners are ambiguous, meaning they can only know about liners from clinical experience. The development of the PLPA serves the purpose to overcome this problem while acting as an accessible tool to teach practitioners of the technical versatility of liners such as observing the compressive, tensile, and shear properties. Our research involves testing many different prosthetic liners currently used in the market through a variety of materials testing while translating this data to meaningful information for prosthetists. Thus, a simple chart is developed for practitioners to improve their recommendations to fit a variety of amputee patients’ needs.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Research is more than just a vehicle to find the connection of studies into a functional application in the real world; it is a jumping-off point to a wealth of opportunities. Learning to take initiative and risks within your lab will prepare you by developing a well-rounded research skill set, taking ownership of your individual project, and persevering through the difficulties that come with research, which are important life skills that will be used in the future. Orienting yourself through the research process takes time, but the amount of hard work you put into it always pays dividends in the long run. Since joining research even before taking a single UW class, I have received a variety of research scholarships, presented at conferences from Seattle to Atlanta, and joined other research opportunities all over the UW campus, something I could not have imagined of doing as a freshman. Through research, the willingness to work hard and persevere is the key to not only finding success in your field, but also for long term character development as a well-rounded member of society.

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2011-12 Cohort

Meg Ainsley

Majors: Social Sciences, Anthropology
Mentor: Walter Andrews, Near Eastern Languages and Civilization

Where are they now?
Meg is in London attending University College London pursuing a M.A. in Digital Humanities and Arabic.

UW research project
The Ottoman Text Archive Project, Svoboda Diary Project

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Given the current state of Iraq, without preservation efforts, texts like the Svoboda diary could have been destroyed. This project helps keep the history of Iraq in the late 19th century alive. This is also the time when the Ottoman Empire was dissolving. Valuable historical information about this era is contained in this diary, making it invaluable to researchers interested in the time period.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
I feel that I help keep history alive since I am an avid history lover this is an indescribable feeling. Being able to extend my knowledge of near eastern history, the Arabic language, and the cultivation of invaluable technical skills has made my involvement with the Svoboda Project one of the best experiences of my life.


Katy Atakturk

Major: Earth and Space Sciences
Mentor: Karl Lang, Earth and Space Sciences


Jayleen Bowman

Major: Sociology
Mentor: Chandra Childers, Sociology

UW research projects
1. Social Determinants of Seattle Community Court Defendants
2. Social Order and the Genesis of Rebellion: Mutiny in the Royal Navy

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
1. Community Court is an alternative court program; rather than go to jail, non-violent misdemeanor offenders who enter the program can help themselves by completing community service and making a variety of comprehensive social service linkages to help address the root and underlying issues of repeated criminal behavior. My research focuses on defendants who are (1) charged with committing a theft offense and (2) must make a housing and/or chemical dependency social service linkages. By categorizing these offenders, I hope to see a trend in defendant characteristics which may explain the determinants of the those populating Seattle Community Court.

2. Mutiny is among the most serious and feared challenges of social order. Mutinies are not simply a spontaneous reaction to grievances, for they are quite rare, while the poor treatment and difficult lives of seamen are all too common. Using systematic data on Royal Navy ships, this research seeks to ask why shipboard social order shifts, tipping members of a crew towards mutiny.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I was introduced to undergraduate research by enrolling in a practicum class offered through the Sociology Department. It’s amazing how beneficial it is to become an active member in ones department. For me personally, every research opportunity has been introduced by a faculty member because they know my interests, experiences, and aspirations as an undergraduate student. I owe it to my department.


Kelsey Braxton

Majors: Physics, Astronomy
Mentor: Bruce Balick, Astronomy

UW research projects
1. Galaxy Formation
2. Planetary Nebula

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
1. Using the gas of six nearby galaxies to determine how they formed.
2. Searching for planetary nebula in open star clusters.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting aspect is the research itself. It is finally getting those results after spending so much time struggling through the process over and over again.


Becca Emery

Majors: Psychology and Philosophy
Mentor: Kevin King, Psychology

Where are they now?
Becca is pursuing a joint PhD in Clinical Psychology and Biological Health at the University of Pittsburgh. She will be studying weight regulation and smoking cessation during and after pregnancy.

UW research project
The Moderating Role of Negative Urgency on the Dual Pathway Model of Bulimia Nervosa

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Binge eating itself is a symptom of both binge eating disorder (BED) and bulimia nervosa and may lead to major health consequences such as weight gain, heart attack, and diabetes. Given the issues surrounding binge eating, I became interested in better understanding what places an individual at risk for such behavior. Essentially, my research looks at personality traits, specifically impulsiveness, that serve as risk factors for binge eating in an attempt to better understand what motivates people to binge. What I’ve found is that individuals who are highly impulsive are more likely to binge eat particularly under certain circumstances, such as when they experience negative mood.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
There is a wide variety of research going on in the psychological sciences and I would encourage anyone interested in studying psychology to get involved. However, I would strongly advise students to avoid choosing an area of study that simply sounds ‘cool’. Do some research before you start researching. Find something that you’re truly interested in and learn about what research in that area entails to make sure it’s something you might enjoy before jumping into it.


Lisa Nguyen

Major: Biology (Physiology)
Minor: Bioethics and Humanities
Mentor: Helen Dichek, Pediatrics

UW research project
Role of Hepatic Lipase in Diet-Induced Obesity

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Hepatic lipase (HL) is an enzyme in the liver that hydrolyzes intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDL) into low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which is also known as bad cholesterol. HL breaks down lipoproteins, releasing free fatty acids, and it is hypothesized that this triggers increased food intake in the central nervous system. Using a mouse model with the human HL gene, we are testing the effects of regular food and high fat diet food on weight gain and food consumption.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging aspect of my undergraduate research experience is running into a problem (such as contamination) that can bring your work to a stop. It’s frustrating, but it is a great learning experience to learn to troubleshoot your work!


Max Schumm

Major: Biochemistry
Mentor: Jesus Lopez-Guisa, Seattle Children’s Research – Center for Tissue and Cell Sciences

Where are they now?
Max is interning in the Quality Assurance Department at Highland Hospital, a public trauma center in Oakland, California. He will be involved with projects enhancing patient experiences and improving patient outcomes.

UW research project
The Role of IL-6 in the Nephrotoxic Serum Nephritis Mouse Model

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
A major problem with kidney related injuries is that they end in kidney failure regardless of their main cause of first insult, a process known as renal fibrosis. Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a pro-inflammatory protein secreted by white blood cells, we know to play a significant role in the inflammatory and fibrotic process as seen in kidney disease. We have genetically engineered mice that have the IL-6 gene deleted only in cells prominent in the immune response. After injecting these mice with a serum that invokes a strong inflammatory response in the kidneys, we sacrifice the mice and harvest the kidneys. It is my job to analyze the gene expression in the IL-6 depleted kidney tissue and analyze tissue sections to determine differences in gene expression as well as progression and level of disease.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Undergraduate research has been rewarding in many lights. I’ve learned the ability to critically read and think my way through problems and errors that occur at the lab. These skills transcend into my daily life and have helped me academically and socially. My research has also complemented my coursework and has helped me to better understand the material I’m learning in the classroom.


Sarah Szewczyk

Majors: Electrical Engineering, Linguistics
Mentor: Rich Christie, Electrical Engineering

Where are they now?
Sarah is pursuing a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the UW.

UW research project
The effect of wind incentives on US power markets

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Wind energy is the fastest growing renewable resource for electric power in the US. Incentives exist at local, state, and federal levels that impact how much wind energy is being produced. We want to know if these incentives are helping to get more wind energy on the grid, and if so, how the wind energy is affecting the energy supply mixture.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most rewarding part of my research experience has been going deep into a subject that just one year ago, I had no idea even existed. I may not be an expert yet, but I have more specialized knowledge on the subject than I did just last year.


Anning Yao

Major: Bioengineering
Minor: Mathematics
Mentor: Pierre D. Mourad, Neurosurgery

Where are they now?
Anning is pursuing a graduate degree in the Bioengineering Department at the University of Pennsylvania.

UW research project
The use of ultrasound elastography as an imaging tool for stroke

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Ultrasound elastography is a technique that measures local tissue deformation from ultrasound-induced shear wave propagation within tissue from which it derives estimates of local tissue stiffness. We are currently building a research device with the capability of generating elastic images using Verosnoics ultrasound engine, which allows complete control over all aspects including data acquisition and processing, image formation and display, and user interface, for stroke detection. We surgically induce ischemic stroke on mice and image using the built device. We optimize the imaging device using the information reflected from the elastic images and the histology results of the stroke animals.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Since the stroke imaging project was in the nascent stage when we first started, a great amount of preliminary studies and preparations were needed. It was very frustrating because we had to keep changing experimental protocols due to gross imaging artifacts. Instead of living with frustration, the appropriate use of logical thinking, engineering skills, and collaboration with experts eventually led us to the correct solution. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from medical research is that even if it does fail most of the time, I can never lose hope because I do not know when I will see that light at the end of the tunnel. Perseverance to a researcher is like a blueprint to the construction of a house: extremely essential.


Martha Zepeda

Majors: Biochemistry, Biology (Molecular,Cellular, Developmental)
Mentor: Merrill Hille, Biology

Where are they now?
Martha is pursuing her PhD in Molecular, Cellular Biology at Harvard University.

UW research projects
p120catenin and the RhoA GTPase Interaction during Early Gastrulation in Zebrafish.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
I look at a small protein (RhoA) that is involved in mediating necessary cell movements during tissue layer differentiation in early embryonic development in zebrafish. This small protein is in turn regulated by a larger protein (p120 catenin), and so I make mutations in specific amino acids in RhoA and inject it into zebrafish embryos to see what happens, and I also make mutations in p120catenin to see how those mutations affects its regulation of RhoA.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of my experience has been the lack of preparation that I had for dealing with failure. When I first started, any experiment that failed I blamed on myself, and while it is true that human error can have an impact, more often than I would like an experiment simply does not give the results I need/expect. The experimental set up can have been meticulously planned and backed up with concrete reasoning and still results are hard to come by and even harder to draw intuitive conclusions from. Yet, I have realized that that is simply the nature of the research I do and that unexpected results are not bad results but rather mini puzzles to decipher and the beauty of research is that deciphering them is something I can feel ownership of.


Eunice Zhang

Major: Neurobiology
Minor: Chemistry
Mentor: Barbara Wakimoto, Biology

Where are they now?
Eunice is working as a Patient Navigator at ICHS (International Community Health Services- a community health center in Seattle’s International District) through AmeriCorps.

UW research projects
Identifying the role of dGCS1 in Drosophila fertilization

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
The process of a sperm entering an egg during fertilization is not well-understood for any organism. Our lab uses Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly, as a model organism to learn about sperm-egg interactions. My project focuses on a protein called GCS1, originally identified as a fertilization molecule in flowering plants. We found that fruit flies also express a version of this protein, called dGCS1, which is essential as a fertilization molecule. The gene encoding for dGCS1, when mutated, results in male sterility. This is exciting because plants and animals show such diverse modes of sexual reproduction. The fact that they may share a common protein suggests that GCS1 has played a fundamental role in fertilization throughout evolutionary history and may have possible implications for human fertility.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Definitely consider what you want in a mentor. I think developing and having a good mentor-mentee relationship is probably the most important and gratifying part of undergraduate research. Don’t limit yourself to, “But I only want to work in a neurobiology lab!” The subject of research is not as important as the people whom you will be working with. As an aspiring neurobiology major at the time I started research, I never thought I would be working in a lab studying fertilization. But I found such a close camaraderie in my co-workers and mentor in my lab that has really shaped my research experience, that I might not have had if I had decided to only limit myself to labs based on research topic. I am so grateful for all the ways in which my mentor has helped me grow!

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2010-11 Cohort

Ann Bauer

Majors: Earth and Space Sciences, French and Italian Studies
Mentor: Bruce Nelson, Earth & Space Sciences

Where are they now?
Anne is pursuing a graduate degree in the Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Department at MIT.

UW research projects
1. High-Precision Pb Isotope Data from Crustal Xenoliths to Examine Magma Source and Crustal Interaction, Bezymianny Volcano, Russia
2. Using Cosmic Ray-Produced Isotopes to Determine the Glacial History of Antarctic Bedrock Surfaces

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
1. Not much is understood about the subsurface interaction of magma and the crust that it comes into contact with. In many cases, the crust gets incorporated into the magma and changes its isotopic signatures. In this study, I use high-precision Pb isotope and mineral composition data to compare the signatures of pieces of crust (in this case, xenoliths, or foreign material) entrained in magma as it rises to the surface and erupts and the magma that is hosting it. My preliminary conclusions confirm that little to no sediment is incorporated in the magma by subduction into its mantle source and also help characterize the composition of subsurface rocks in the area of Kamchatka, Russia.

2. The expansion and retreat of the Antarctic ice sheet has a major impact on global sea level. It is difficult to model the extent of the ice sheet prior to the most recent glaciation, but cosmic ray-produced isotopes in bedrock can be used to place limits on the extent of the ice sheet during past glaciations. Cosmic rays interact with the minerals in bedrock to produce unstable radioactive isotopes. We measure the relative concentrations of two radioisotopes, aluminum-26 and beryllium-10, both of which are produced in quartz when exposed to cosmic rays. These isotopes increase in concentration when rock surfaces are exposed during interglacial periods, and decay at different rates when bedrock surfaces are shielded by ice during times of glacial cover. The ratio of these two isotopes is therefore sensitive to the length of exposure and burial of the bedrock. For this project, bedrock samples were collected on elevation transects off of Scott Glacier and Reedy Glacier in the Transantarctic Mountains. Our data thus far demonstrate that the sampled surfaces have recorded cosmic ray exposure prior to the most recent glaciation and that the bedrock has had more exposure time at higher elevations than at lower elevations.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Don’t be shy! I was, and I regret it– I wish that I had gotten involved in research much earlier in my undergraduate career. You don’t need to have taken all of the classes in your major before you will be equipped to engage in research. The only thing you need is enthusiasm! If you work hard and are truly engaged in the subject, your mentors will both recognize and appreciate that.


Ellie Casey

Majors: Microbiology, Spanish & Portuguese Studies
Mentor: James Mullins, Microbiology

Where are they now?
Ellie is currently working as a Research Scientist in the Mullins Lab where she did her undergraduate research.

UW research project
Genetic Impact of Vaccination on Breakthrough HIV-1 Sequences from the Step Trial

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Even though the vaccine didn’t protect against infection, if we can establish the mechanism by which if affected the incoming HIV, this information could be used in the design of future HIV vaccines that will hopefully be more effective in blocking transmission of the virus.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Research is somewhat synonymous with frustration. It is not uncommon to work for weeks on an experiment only to have it fail. And then you have to try it again. In fact, I think not getting frustrated is probably one of the most challenging things in research. Developing a patience and an understanding that things take time (almost always more time than initially expected) is important so that you can keep moving forward with your work.


Michael Choi

Majors: Chemistry, Biochemistry
Minor: Mathematics
Mentor: Hannele Rouhola-Baker, Biochemistry and the Institute of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

UW research project
The Metabolism of Embryonic Stem Cells

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Embryonic stem cells are cells found in the developing embryo that are capable of forming all of the various tissues and cell types found in the body. Using human and mouse embryonic stem cells, I am researching how these cells obtain and utilize their energy sources. Previously, I have characterized how the metabolism of embryonic stem cells changes during development, and currently I am investigating the biochemical basis that drives these changes. With this research, I hope to further expand the knowledge that scientists have about embryonic stem cells in order to better utilize them for therapeutic and regenerative purposes.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
There is a ton of research going on at the University of Washington in all fields, not only in the sciences. I would advise any student considering undergraduate research to get involved because there is definitely a research project on campus that they will find interesting.


Benjamin Dulken

Major: Bioengineering
Minor: Chemistry
Mentor: Suzie Pun, Bioengineering

UW research project
Micelles Formed from Triblock Copolymers Used as Delivery Vehicles for Chemotherapeutic Drugs

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Chemotherapeutic drugs are very harmful to humans. They are extremely toxic and cause a great deal of suffering. By enclosing these toxic molecules inside of nanoparticles we can hopefully minimize the harmful effects on the normal body tissues, while still providing powerful tumor suppression.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I originally got involved in undergraduate research after working as a lab tech for a lab in the Department of Pathology. I made media and cleaned glassware for about 6 months, and I was subsequently offered an undergraduate research position in the lab. Needless to say, I found a passion for the research and have been able to carry that passion into my more recent research endeavors.


Byron Gray

Major: Political Science, Law, Societies, and Justice, Asian Studies (South Asia)
Minor: South Asian Languages
Mentor: Sunila Kale

Where are they now?
Byron is currently finishing his multiple tracks of study at UW and preparing for graduate school.

He has recently received two very prestigious scholarships, the Rhodes Scholarship and the Beinecke Scholarship. The Rhodes Scholarship will take him to the University of Oxford in fall 2012.

UW research project
Currently I am engaged in research which examines the politics of personal law in post-colonial India. This project examines how different groups conceptualize and frame the law, and how these interpretations inform the political changes the legal system undergoes.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My current research tries to understand how different groups in India interpret family law and how these interpretations affect struggles over changes to the legal system. At a basic level, this project is an attempt to explore the relationship between law and politics.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
For a student interested in getting involved with research in the social sciences my first suggestion would be to simply explore a variety of undergraduate classes and get a sense of the topics or issues which you find interesting. As you get a sense of things you might be interested in, take courses which place emphasis on a longer term paper or research project; often you will be able to explore a topic you are interested in but still have the support of an instructor. If you strike upon something promising you might then consider expanding it through an independent study and applying for funding for the work you are doing. Research is most rewarding when you have developed a personal investment or stake in what you are doing.


Albert Han

Major: Psychology
Mentor: Jonathan Brown, Psychology

Where are they now?
Albert is pursuing a PhD in Organizational Psychology at the University of Southern California.

UW research project
Power Increases Pressure to Demonstrate Fairness

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Those in power might be hypersensitive to threats to their ability to be seen as fair. They may experience distress in situations that might cause others to perceive them as being unfair. Accordingly, they may adjust their behavior to demonstrate fairness, even if that adjustment would not be the best choice. For example, a Black manager in a predominately white company may experience distress if one of his black subordinates asks him for extra help due to the possibility of his other subordinates (who are mostly white) perceiving favoritism.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Doing research nurtures your critical thinking skills. It gives you the ability to analyze and interpret information. Doing research teaches you how to think.


Maggie Hellis

Majors: Near Eastern Studies, Comparative History of Ideas
Mentor: Ileana Rodriguez-Silva, History


Brandon Ing

Major: Biochemistry
Minor: Music
Mentor: Marshall Horwitz, UW Medicine, Pathology

Where are they now?
Brandon is working as a Middle School Math teacher in Hawaii through the Teach for America Program

UW research project
Understanding the Genetic Basis of Hodgkin Lymphoma Pathogenesis

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting aspect of my undergraduate research experience is collaborating with other professionals who know the science behind your research. When you engage in undergraduate research, most of the time you are working directly next to someone who has gone through graduate school and is filled with life-stories to tell. At my own bench, I am surrounded by a graduate student, a research scientist, and an MD/PhD Junior Faculty member. They have their own stories to tell but it’s also very encouraging to be surrounded by people who have gone through what you are going through and to see where that hard work will get you.

It is also very rewarding when you see the results of the experiment you have been working at for countless weeks on end. When you see the results, whether they support or refute your hypothesis, you feel a sense of accomplishment; a sense of success knowing that you aided in the work of something that is important and life-changing. Of course we all experience a sense of success when we do well in a class, but when you’ve finished an experiment, you get a feeling of high accomplishment knowing that you’ve aided in the understanding in this small area which may have a larger impact on others in the end.


Joy Kim

Major: Computer Science
Mentor: Eve Riskin, Electrical Engineering

Where are they now?
Joy is currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science & Engineering at Stanford University.

UW research project
MobileASL

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
To communicate while mobile, Deaf people usually just use English text and text messaging or email. The problem is, many Deaf people don’t use English as their first language and sign language is much more comfortable and natural to communicate in. Therefore, through MobileASL, we want to make it possible for Deaf people to communicate in sign language, much like hearing people are able to communicate by voice on regular cell phones. Cell phones aren’t that powerful, and video is complicated to process and transmit over a network, so these are two major problems that we have to deal with while developing MobileASL.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
I really like that the project I’m involved in is addressing very current and real technology issues in the Deaf community. Just last summer, I was able to assist in running a field study where we gave 11 Deaf high school and college students MobileASL phones to observe how they used it. I was able to speak with them about the situations in which they found MobileASL useful (such as calling each other for bus directions or finding each other when lost downtown) and hear from them directly that they thought MobileASL was totally awesome. That was really rewarding.


Vivian Lee

Major: Biochemistry
Minor: Chemistry
Mentor: Anne Manicone, Medicine

Where are they now?
Vivian is now working for UW Medicine Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine / Department of Pediatrics as a Research Scientist I at the South Lake Union campus. Her projects involve generating primary cell culture for Cystic Fibrosis Core projects and studying the way in which lung and tracheal epithelial cells respond to nanoparticles.

UW research project
Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine project on understanding the mechanism by which leukocyte recruitment to the lung is regulated

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
We are studying the way in which white blood cells are recruited and activated in our lungs during injury to fight pathogens.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging aspect of undergraduate research for me has been the fear of making mistakes. It can be scary to make mistakes because many people invest their time and grant money into the projects. However I try to learn from my mistakes and never make the same mistake twice. It also helps to have friendly lab members always ready to answer your questions!


Kate Mead

Major: Bioengineering
Minor: Philosophy
Mentor: Tom Matula, Applied Physics Lab

Where are they now?
Kate is currently pursuing a degree in Law at the University of Washington.

UW research project
Designing a pulsed, low intensity ultrasound bath to boost the growth rates of E. coli

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
I am trying to create a machine that will “massage” tiny bacteria cells with sound, with the hope that they will grow faster than normal. Many common pharmaceuticals that we use on a daily basis are actually made by bacteria. If I can make bacteria grow faster, then we could potentially make drugs faster, and therefore, cheaper.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting aspect of my research experience is the pressure to teach myself a variety of interesting skills that I could not develop in the classroom. Right now, I am working on the design of an electrical circuit. Before I started this project, I did not have much experience with circuit design, but I have been forced to teach myself and to navigate the electrical engineering literature so that I can design a circuit that can reliably do what I need it to do. My research projects have taught me how to be independent and pro-active with my education.


Mariam Shehata

Major: Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology
Mentor: Mei Wu, Oncology

Where are they now?
Mariam is currently working as a Family Services Coordinator at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

UW research project
Identification of Tumor Antigens Associated with Breast Cancer

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My work is aimed at identifying protein markers that are associated with the occurrence of breast cancer and can be used in the future for diagnosis as well as treatment.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Don’t think that you are not qualified to do research or that others maybe more qualified than you are. Undergraduate research is an exciting experience that everyone should consider.


Scott Swan

Major: Biology
Minors: Earth and Space Sciences, Paleobiology
Mentor: Greg Wilson, Biology

UW research project
The Earliest North American Marsupial Ancestor from the Wayan Formation of Southeastern Idaho

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
I am doing work on a recently discovered marsupial ancestor from Idaho. This specimen is remarkable due to the fact that it sets back the first incident of marsupial in North America to about 100 million years ago. This research will allow us to study the migration of mammals and marsupials through time. My project includes scoring the tooth (examining the characteristics) and comparing it to other marsupials in the same time period.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging/frustrating aspect of my research is going through the writing process.